10.16.2013 0

Names can hurt you

By Rick Manning

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Pfeiffer_1This familiar chant from little kids in response to being verbally abused or mischaracterized is typically taught by parents hoping to encourage children to ignore the hurtful taunts of others.

But in the adult world, the adage is proven to be false time and again.

This past week White House Adviser Dan Pfeiffer compared Tea Party Republicans to, “people with a bomb strapped to their chest.”

“It is not a negotiation if I show up at your house and say, ‘Give me everything inside, or I’m going to burn it down.’”

The White House never denounced the remarks, and in fact sought instead to disassociate tactics they have used in the past during various fiscal cliff “crises” from those currently being employed by their political opponents.

Why does this matter?

Why should America be concerned by this harsh increase in rhetoric and the Obama Administration’s use of legally actionable words by a staffer sent out to defend their position to the media?

It matters because this Administration has the power to enforce law enforcement action against those they deem to be terrorists, and by characterizing their political opponents in this manner it is no longer just words, it is a not so veiled threat.

Fox News reported on Columbus Day that soldiers were told at an official U.S. Army briefing that a well-respected Christian ministry group is the equivalent to domestic hate group with the Ku Klux Klan among others.

Several dozen U.S. Army active duty and reserve troops were told last week that the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because the group advocates for traditional family values.

This follows an article co-written by a former Army Colonel who teaches at Fort Leavenworth (not the prison, but the Army base) that hypothesizes a scenario where “tea party” groups in Darlington County, South Carolina embrace the Declaration of Independence and disband the local government.  To quote the article, “While mainstream politicians and citizens react with alarm, the “tea party” insurrectionists in South Carolina enjoy a groundswell of support from other tea party groups, militias, racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, anti-immigrant associations such as the Minutemen, and other right-wing groups.”

The article then outlines how the military could be deployed to put down the tea partiers.

When a White House official throws around the words “terrorists” in conjunction with the opposition political party engaged in a legitimate legislative battle on Capitol Hill, it triggers bureaucratic responses.

When the same Administration is already embroiled in a scandal involving the IRS and other federal government agency’s using intimidation tactics to silence tea party oriented groups, one would think that Team Obama would be particularly sensitive in using incendiary language that could elicit unacceptable bureaucratic actions.

And one would expect that the media would universally condemn and demand a retraction of language that has real implications to the future of American political dissent.

Yet, with the Obama Administration’s defense of Pfeiffer, the defining of an Administration’s political opponents as “terrorists” is now acceptable.

In this instance, sticks and stones may break one’s bones, but names can get you arrested.  It is past time for President Obama to disavow Pfeiffer’s remarks and fire him from his Administration.  No other reaction should be acceptable to anyone who values the inherently American right to political dissent.

Rick Manning is the Vice President of Public Policy & Communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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